Resident Evil Village is easily the best new original entry in the series since Capcom turned over a new leaf for its long-running survival horror franchise.
The game goes to great lengths in keeping the aging gameplay alive with a new setting that boldly puts players through some of their fondest nightmares. It also doubles-down on the horror which was re-injected with Resident Evil VII, through a surprisingly twisty new story that leaves the door open for Capcom to outdo itself again.
After playing through the 10 hour campaign from start to finish, I noticed a particular talent in how Capcom can make a Resident Evil game in almost any setting without losing the core magic. Resident Evil Village boldly continues what the team started since 2017, by going back to a no-nonsense brand for survival horror. What made the previous VII Biohazard work so well was how it managed to make players feel more vulnerable than ever in the face of grotesquely unapproachable beings. The change to a first person view gave the series a whole new way to look at its strange world, with players facing death head-on.
Village feels more like this realized vision than VII: Biohazard, thanks to Capcom finding solid footing through its previous remakes which made players afraid of bolt cutters. More importantly, it’s these experiences on Capcom’s part that puts some awesome quality-of-life changes in Resident Evil Village. The result is a purely enjoyable fright fest that sets an absolute masterclass for studios to follow.
Players are also reunited with original protagonist Ethan Winters. In true sequel fashion, we see Winters radically changed from his time in Dulvey, Louisiana. Having survived the grindhouse-esque murder fest of Jack Baker and his infected family, it’s not a surprise to see Ethan struggling to move on with Mia three years later. Both are happily settling in Europe while raising their newborn daughter, Rose. This somber introduction adds the only sense of safety and comfort for players in the game’s first minutes before things really start to go wrong. Chris Redfield makes a return, but quickly turns Ethan’s world upside down by snatching Rose to an unknown group of cultists. This sets off a journey for Ethan to get his daughter back, even if it takes a literal village with paranormal enemies to stop him.
“Resident Evil Village’s long, unwinding narrative”
The stakes of family add even more emotion into Resident Evil Village’s long, unwinding narrative. Capcom uses good sequel techniques by referencing much of Resident Evil VII, to remind players it’s an integral part for their latest adventure. Throughout the cutscenes, there are a great amount of moments that can only be explained by remembering the Baker incident, Chris’ DLC mission and Ethan’s own ordeals. I didn’t mind the barrier as a veteran of VII, but fresh players should watch the recap offered before starting or experience the previous title (and I’m jealous of first-time players).
Capcom’s writers have done an incredible job with balancing out how much of Resident Evil VII Biohazard drives the new lore forward while keeping players invested in Ethan’s own personal mystery. It’s worth noting that Ethan’s snappier this time around, with an uneasy confidence and thin patience that even baffles Village’s own roster of weirdos. More importantly, the originality of Resident Evil Village pays off with jaw-dropping moments when its story deviates away from Ethan with some juicy discoveries. Sparing scenes with an enigmatic elder, Lady Dimitrescu (more on this below) and Chris Redfield are well-acted enough to maintain Resident Evil Village’s serious nature without coming close to Resident Evil’s cheesier days. But the story fits nicely into the overall universe, thanks to subtle references to other games and a tight focus for Ethan’s grounded perspective.
Resident Evil Village’s premise is reflected off its gothic, fabled wasteland. The entire experience is heavily inspired by Capcom’s groundbreaking entry Resident Evil 4 in terms of shifting direction, atmosphere and tone. It’s hard to not notice the similarities of the 2005 game, based on how it draws on folklore as grounds for a variety of scares. But while Leon’s badass adventure was both unsettling and fitting, Resident Evil Village almost feels like Resident Evil 4 if it fully surrendered to tension. The new village in a next-generation lens is an absolutely chilling place to be. Players are encouraged to explore almost every house and alley for key items that push the story forward. Capcom was right to continue blending resource-driven exploration, which lets players spring all types of surprises. In a welcome addition, players will get to see just how bad things are in this town through other survivors. It’s refreshing to encounter some normal people to break up the already strange cast. This breathes desperation and adds some incredibly neat details to show what life was like before Ethan shows up.
“One of the prettiest next gen games yet.”
Players will get to explore a breathtaking castle, which stands out to make Resident Evil Village one of the prettiest next gen games yet. The RE Engine now includes ray tracing to make items pop with candles or sunlight. It’s a real treat to explore each floor of the castle, with an impressive variety of hidden doors to seal in Resident Evil Village’s gothic mazes. This Victorian-era setting doesn’t evoke as much atmosphere as its titular village. But still gives players a real adventure inside its dark dungeons, wine cellars and open grounds. Capcom’s level design in Resident Evil Village is on point by making the castle bigger with every new key item found. Players will come across special traps and rooms which require some deeper thinking to solve. But it’s Victorian-era rhymes were a creative way to give players hints into turning the right statues or sorting items in a proper order.
Players won’t have to wait long to have their screens graced by Resident Evil Village’s mascot Lady Alcina Dimitrescu. Her scenes are sparing, but add a playful flare to the average Resident Evil menace. She seems to know a bit too much about Rose, ahead of a ceremony with sinister goals. But Lady Dimitrescu’s cutscenes manage to steal the show quite a bit, leading up to the inevitable boss battle. Her character development is baked in with some collectible notes that reveal more about Resident Evil Village’s castle setting. But Lady Dimitrescu is later added into the game as a looming presence to chase players across the castle. When she does catch players in rare moments, her finger blades inflict a fair amount of damage. Unfortunately, she doesn’t share the same persistence as Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X or 3’s Nemesis. This stems from players being able to outrun her much easier than the other characters. She can also be slowed down by human-sized doors, giving players ample time to literally disappear from her radar. It’s a tad bit disappointing to see the game’s looming enemy as more of an afterthought when I continued moving between objectives. This is a stark contrast to Resident Evil VII’s Jack Baker, who was fast enough to catch up with players and become a real problem. And to settle the question, Dimitrescu is pronounced di-mi-treese in the game.
Dimitrescu’s three vampire daughters help add a constant unease in the castle. These moments don’t come as often in Resident Evil Village, but they can be harder to avoid due to their faster speeds. It becomes more complicated as one can quickly stand in the way of an objective. This adds a bit of strategy in knowing how to pass each daughter in the castle’s tight hallways. Ethan will eventually fight each of Dimitrescu’s daughters one by one, but these can come off as far too simple by mini-boss standards. The issue lies in each one sharing a common weakness that players can easily exploit before hurling a wallop of gunfire.
Unlike Resident Evil VII’s ever-expanding Baker house, players are just scratching the surface by navigating through the village and castle. One of the biggest realizations of Resident Evil Village is how players are barely halfway through after completing the village and castle sections. Ethan is quickly introduced to three other unique bosses in levels which can be completed in any order. Even afterwards, players are stretched on time with an action-packed climax and a fourth expansive section.This is easily one of the biggest games for scope when compared to other entries, and it felt like a great surprise to discover the story only really started when I thought it ended.
By unlocking more of the village bit by bit, players can unlock more key items which open up three other locations. I found myself backtracking even more in this hub to open shortcuts, previously shuttered gates and other spots. Being curious or going this extra mile comes with some pretty big rewards, including a trove of supplies or free weapons that can deal some serious damage to specific enemy types. Resident Evil Village does a bit of justice to previous games by spreading out all you can possibly see across 10 hours. For pacing, this approach to making the most out of the already-expansive locations works effortlessly. This all comes with intertwined cutscenes and variety in action and defenseless horror segments to keep things fresh.
By “defenseless horror,” Resident Evil Village has included multiple segments which strip Ethan away of his guns. It’s a great change in pace, particularly in one level where players are thrown into an escape room. They’re also met by one of the most disturbing enemies to come from a Resident Evil game which gives chase throughout. Plenty of other sections involve running when fighting isn’t an option. But Capcom has made these sections somewhat tricky, especially when players are at a dead end and have seconds to find a way out. Early on, Ethan will be subjected to a bit more scripted moments in the first portion of the game before things start to get settled. In true Resident Evil fashion, the game will put players into another character – with some bombastic results that made me want a Chapter Select to replay.
“Brilliantly tied to the creepy folklore”
Capcom’s affinity for making a Resident Evil game without zombies was a pretty radical change in VII. But it ultimately worked to create some pretty menacing creatures players have to actively avoid. Resident Evil Village’s enemy types are brilliantly tied to the creepy folklore that Capcom manages to bring forward. Players are taking a break from zombies to face werewolves, vampires, brutes and failed lab experiments (a Resident Evil staple). There’s much more depth behind the game’s werewolves, who don’t have a certain blandness as the Molded did in Resident Evil VII. Early on, Capcom makes it known that Resident Evil Village will be pitting players against these rabid, bloodthirsty animals. Designers have done a wonderful job in bringing out their threatening nature by making them much harder to kill. Werewolves use their agility to dodge Ethan’s shots. They can also actively close the distance, making it more difficult for players to keep moving back to line their headshot up. It’s no joke for Capcom to make werewolves as scary as they should be. But in maintaining the tension, Resident Evil Village keeps players from being too powerful by sending enemies out in numbers. This encouraged me to actually mix different weapons and shift play styles to blast a window for escape or perform crowd control.
In the castle, players face less of a challenge against some standard ghouls. These hooded shells of the castle’s denizens are still unsettling to see, but come in bigger numbers. Players can easily manage the ghouls thanks to their slower speeds, but can spawn from holes in dark open caves. In these segments, the ghouls can whittle away your ammo and make resources scarcer later on.
Resident Evil Village uses its smooth, easy-to-use first person controls for a combat system which works. Like Resident Evil VII, players are constantly trying to keep their distance from enemies as they fire a variety of weapons. But this time, Ethan is much more experienced in handling enemies since his time in Louisiana. This makes the combat feel more tactical, dexterous and faster when switching weapons or reloading. It’s awesome to see Capcom use the story to make some quality of life changes in the blocking system, which gives players a chance to reduce some damage taken by holding their arms up. When being grappled with, Ethan can also now push enemies back which helps with maintaining a healthy distance from ravenous man-wolves.
The first person aiming system might feel a bit formulaic for survival horror, but it’s serviceable enough in Resident Evil Village. The real curveball comes from smarter AI dodging headshots, which pushes players to think smarter during boss battles and action-based encounters. Enemies can now break into buildings, but players can slide furniture over doors to delay them. I found this pretty useful at the first half of the game when an entire mob of werewolves swarmed me. In a mix of the Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 village scenes, players will learn how to nail combat in a rather interesting way without training wheels. Did I mention there’s a giant werewolf with an axe?
But fret not. Guns and bullets can make the scary monsters go away. The game let’s players build their arsenal much quicker. Ethan discovers a pistol and shotgun pretty early, but also a sniper rifle and grenade launcher as he progresses. Like Resident Evil VII, there’s a wonderful impact to shotguns which blast open heads up close. Snipers can take out winged ghouls heckling Ethan up high, or pick off some enemies from afar to make confrontations easier. These weapons only get more powerful as they discover more parts across the story, while they can also be replaced. Each section of Resident Evil Village comes with a treasure area, where players can find more than consumables. My favourite bonus included a revolver which fired silver bullets and served one-hit kills to werewolves.
Resident Evil Village offers a much more useful crafting system to aid players. This feels like an even handier way to gain health, ammo and other supplies by collecting resources on the go. Capcom has drastically increased the amount of items gained, which definitely encouraged me to use it at any opportunity. The most reliable materials like Chem Fluid can also be funneled into medicine or shotgun ammo. Moments like these add to the survival horror tension, especially when players have to pick between crafting items as situations happen. Despite the regular crafting, I didn’t have too much of a problem with ammo for most of the game. Players with a mind for conserving bullets can find themselves with more than enough to take on powerful foes.
Avoiding enemies is one way to stay alive in Resident Evil Village, but the game rewards for players eager enough to slay every monster in their path. Once players become strong enough, they can clear out entire sections and earn more than resources. Most enemies drop Lei, a currency that can be used for buying items. Players can pick up around 500 Lei from the standard enemies, but this quickly adds up from taking down larger types which drop thousands. Eliminating a story boss leaves crystals which fetch for an absurd amount of Lei when sold.
So “what are you buying?” Those iconic words were first spoken by the Merchant in Resident Evil 4. Luckily, they’re repeated again by his business friend, The Duke in Resident Evil Village. Calm, collected and charismatic, players will quickly bask in his comfort across the campaign. He offers a variety of ammo, medicine and new weapons that can only be bought by Lei.
Bringing back the merchant was a welcome decision to Resident Evil Village, engaging players through smart spending and investments. Two different storefronts focus on consumables and weapon upgrades. The Duke can also buff the stats for weapons, giving players an increase for perks like reload times, firepower and ammo. This adds a solid line of progression which gives players a chance to evolve from Ethan to Doomguy by the end of the game. Players can also trade their resources for more Lei, which comes in handy for barely affording an upgrade. Adding to the progression are status upgrades. The Duke happens to be an excellent chef and can create dishes which permanently increase Ethan’s strengths, from health to blocking. For this, players can kill and collect meat from animals scattered across the game. Hunting enough fish, chicken and rams add to the combination of recipes players can earn. I didn’t spend as much time on recipes as I did with firepower, while players can beat Resident Evil Village just fine without them. As a tip, I recommend saving up for Attache Cases, which greatly expand the inventory system slots so players don’t sacrifice valuable resources for space.
“I recommend saving up for Attache Cases”
But while the Merchant in Resident Evil 4 was simply present for players, The Duke is actually instrumental to the story. Ethan’s exchanges with the Duke push the story forward in some neat ways. It’s incredibly nice to see The Duke play a much bigger role for Ethan’s journey, especially at Resident Evil Village‘s climax once all the levels have been complete. It’s also amusing to hear Ethan wondering how the hell the Duke was able to stay a step ahead of him when discovering a new level. When being chased by Lady Dimitrescu around the castle, The Duke also serves as a safe room which comes complete with a typewriter for saving.
Resident Evil Village’s campaign alone is highly replayable, with options for difficulty and a brand new list of unlockable weapons to earn. Players can also jump back in with a new game plus to send some payback to those lycans as a supercharged Ethan. Veterans of Resident Evil VII might also need to ramp up the difficulty on their first runthrough, as Normal can feel a tad bit too manageable from familiar experience. But beating the game once only leaves room for more experimentation, while it’s still regrettable for Capcom to not add in a chapter select. It’s still unknown if the studio will be bringing back some single player DLC which helped expand Resident Evil VII greatly after launch. As a neat and welcome bonus, The Mercenaries mode makes a glorious comeback. The time attack, action-based horde mode was a staple part of Resident Evil until the sixth game. Players simply load up on weapons and supplies from The Duke before jumping into a zone to slay enemies. Without reservations for horror, The Mercenaries feels a bit tacked-on at first, until players become invested in racking up a high score and upgrading their loadouts. Later levels introduce bigger enemy types from the campaign, giving players plenty of Van Helsing time.
It’s hard to know how much further Capcom can go, based on the boundaries they’ve pushed in Resident Evil Village. Their latest gothic survival horror adventure does more with what worked in VII Biohazard, giving players a far superior entry. Risky narrative choices in the plot change the way players look at the previous game, while constant level variety keeps tension flowing creatively. Combat is knitted nicely with exploration and treasures to an addictive effect. The village and castle are easily some of the most gorgeous areas I’ve ever seen, with the game going beyond what’s offered at face value. Resident Evil Village raises the bar ever so slightly, but just enough for Capcom to maintain its grip in AAA survival horror experiences. For players, it might be hard to loosen their hands from the controller.